There’s a handful of fast-food restaurants we all know. They’re in thousands of cities in the states, and often found internationally. Before these restaurants existed, there were local places to eat that were customized by their location. Short supply chains, local knowledge of cooking traditions implemented by local cooks, seasonal ingredients…I’ll stop before I make my pregnant self too hungry. Doesn’t that sound so much better than the chains of fast food, though? And…REAL? When it comes to animal breeds, the same premise applies. Heritage breeds are authentic, localized, and healthy – developed with care and passion for the full expression of their purpose. Modern breeds are built for convenience, high-production, profitability, and standardization - developed for profitability in contrast with their purpose. Here is the Livestock Conservancy’s explanation of what a heritage breed is: https://livestockconservancy.org/heritage-breeds/
I like to get to the root of things (and not just in the garden). The roots here are deeeeep! So, we will have a multiple-part series to cover heritage breeds. As I was considering this topic, my mind kept centering around the word “purpose”. I believe everything was created FOR a purpose and WITH purpose, and animals are no exception. Many people go through life and miss their purpose entirely – which is a travesty – so it comes as no surprise that we often don’t understand animals’ purposes either. Animals have an incredible capacity for accomplishing their purpose, with which we should have (and here we go back to my favorite phrase) minimal interference.
Some farming practices subject the purpose of an animal to profitability, and here is where I have an issue with the rights of animals being violated. When we compromise the health and quality of life of animals because we are ignorant, lazy, fearful, or profit-driven, we have interfered too much. And as a result, the breed/species suffers. Separating an animal from their purpose can cause that purpose to be lost astoundingly fast. The solution is to support local farmers, raise your own food as much as you possibly can, and invest in localized heritage breeds. You can donate to the Livestock Conservancy, which has a wonderful mission (and lots of interesting information, specifically each species’ heritage breed list and their status).
It’s difficult to understand the value of heritage breeds unless you can see the effects of modernization on certain breeds. Let’s take an example- the chicken. Chickens developed from jungle fowl- specifically, some believe, the Southeast Asian Red Junglefowl. We have interfered so minimally with our chickens that they are starting to look like jungle fowl. I will make a separate blog post regarding the incredible habits and functionality of our chickens. We’ve never seen any chickens behave quite like ours now do. They are 100% independent. They forage, free range (often across our entire acreage), roost in trees and raise their young totally independently. Because we don’t use chemicals on our property, they are extremely healthy and are parasite-resistant. We toss them table scraps and occasional grain, but they are not dependent on us for food- even in the winter. I’m sure you’re at least minimally aware of the changes that have occurred in your everyday chicken. About 100 years ago, chickens were not eaten constantly, and they laid about 100 eggs on average per year. They were much smaller, hardier, and “wilder” than the chickens of today. There’s an interesting study published in Poultry Science that was done by researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada where they raised 3 breeds from different eras in the exact same way to observe the developmental differences. The chickens of today are 4 times larger. Here’s an article on the study: https://www.vox.com/xpress/2014/10/2/6875031/chickens-breeding-farming-boilers-giant
You can find the photos of the different chickens below:
Perhaps someone could say that this was an advance in the animal’s purpose. That now it can feed more people, lay more eggs, convert feed into meat more efficiently, etc. but the response to that is – at what cost? What has happened to the health of the animals? What has happened to the health of the humans who eat them? What is the species now dependent upon for survival? What alterations have occurred? Are they beneficial? Are they accomplishing their purpose? If you’ve ever had to step foot into a commercial chicken barn while attempting to simultaneously breathe, you know all too well. Chickens are created to benefit the earth in many ways that are compromised when they’re shoulder to shoulder in a commercial chicken house. Sadly, in many chickens their original purpose and their instincts are lost and won't be regained. They're completely dependent on humans and the infrastructure we've created for our own convenience.
Have any thoughts? We would love to hear them in the comments!
Better yet, tune into our Facebook live discussion tomorrow night at 7pm CST (@summerside) and keep an eye out for our next blog post on the subject of heritage breeds! #farm #farmers #smallfarm #familyfarm #homestead #missourifarm #familyfarmers #heritagebreeds #heritagebreeders #seymourmissouri #seymourmofarmer #swmofarm #417farm #417local #localfarm #minimalinterference